|Father||Rev Samuel Sackett (1711/12-1784)|
|Mother||Hannah Hazard (c 1712-after 1777)|
Nathaniel was named as a beneficiary in his brother James's will made at FrederickstownG on 19 March 1789. He was to inherit the estate jointly with his sister Hannah, nephew Joseph, and niece Deborah, after his mother's lifetime interest.3
In 1790 Nathaniel was living in Fishkill, Dutchess County, New York StateG. In his household were three males (16+) and three females.4
In 1800 he was a householder in Fishkill, Dutchess County, New York StateG.5
During the American War of Independence Nathaniel Sackett served as a spymaster in the revolutionary cause. He was appointed by George Washington in February 1777 to obtain intelligence on the plans of the British enemy forces. His work involved the recruitment of agents and informers, behind the enemy lines, if necessary paid from a purse of $500 sanctioned by Washington.6,7,8,910,11,12
To Mr Nathl Sacket
The advantage of obtaining the earliest and best Intelligence of the designs of the Enemy, the good character given of you by Colo Duer, and your capacity for an undertaking of this kind, have induced me to entrust the management of this business to your care till further orders on this head.
For your own trouble in this business I agree, on behalf of the Public, to allow you Fifty Dollars pr Kallendar Month, and herewith give you a warrant upon the Paymaster Genl for the sum of Five hundred Dollars to pay those whom you may find necessary to Imploy in the transaction of this business, an acct of the disbursements of which you are to render to me.
Given at Head Quarters at
Morristown this 4th day of Feby
Nathaniel was recommended to General Washington by William Duer, a Continental Congressman, with whom Nathaniel served on the New York committee for detecting and defeating conspiracies.13
He will communicate to your Excellency some Measures taken by him, and myself which if properly prosecuted may be of infinite Utility to the present military Operations. I have therefore recommended it to him to wait on you in Person in hope that some Systematical Plan may be adopted and prosecuted for facilitating your Manoeuvres against the British army.
[full text William Duer to George Washington, 28 January 1777]
Doubtless aware of the risk of the misdirection of letters by untrustworthy intermediaries both Duer and Washington were careful not to put too much in writing. Duer's cautionary, "to say more in a letter might be imprudent", was echoed in Washington's reply.14,15
I shall say but little to you by way of Letter, as I shall communicate my sentiments in a Confidential Manner to Mr Sacket.
[full text George Washington to William Duer, 3 February 1777]
Taking his instructions personally from Washington, Nathaniel set up an intelligence-gathering network in the New York area. He was soon reporting information gathered in the field to Duer and through him to Washington. A letter of 25 February 1777 reveals the nature of the intelligence-gathering, including the information—.16
"That Edmund Fanning had agreed with some shoe makers in Easthampton to make 3 or 400 pairs of shoes for the Ministerial Army saying that the Rebels had taken a Considerable Number from them and that they were almost Barefooted."
[full text John Davis to Nathaniel Sackett, 25 February 1777, abstract by William Duer sent to George Washington 2 March 1777]
The cryptic style of letter-writing was continued by Duer in a detailed report to Washington a few days later, and in Washington's reply to Duer.13,17,15
[full text William Duer on behalf of New York Legislature Committee of Correspondence to George Washington, 2 March 1777]
I am glad Mr S's plan is nearly compleated and I am persuaded the benefits resulting from it will be great. The sooner it can be executed, the more beneficial it will be.
[full text George Washington to William Duer, March 6, 1777]
As well as his role as a spy, Nathaniel Sackett's voice carried considerable weight as a member of the General Committee of Safety. In a letter to General McDougall in March 1777 (which letter McDougall forwarded to Washington), Nathaniel presented arguments, on behalf of the committee, for the redeployment of Colonel Livingston's regiment to fill a gap in the defences.18
[full text Nathaniel Sackett to Alexander McDougall, March 12, 1777]
At a later stage in the war, in May 1782, Nathaniel was appointed as a sutler to the Continental Army. Nathaniel's undoubted organizational abilities were evidently complemented by diplomatic skills—a note of thanks to Nathaniel for a cheese being found amongst Washington's papers of October 1782.19,20
Head Quarters Newburgh Monday May 13. 1782
Parole . . . CSigns.
Mr Nathaniel Sackett has obtained permission from the Commander in Chief to Suttle to the Army untill further orders, upon conforming to the regulations for Conducting that business which will be pointed out to him by the Quarter Master General.
George Washington, 13 May 1782, General Orders
[note re cheese George Washington to Benjamin Tallmadge, 15 October 1782]
In August 1785 Nathaniel proposed to Congress the establishment of a new state in the west on lands bounded by Lake Erie and the Ohio, Scioto, and Muskingum rivers "for the relief of all our distressed and neglected citizens". Congress was not persuaded of the merits of the scheme, but Nathaniel persevered and gained 340 supporting signatures and presented the plan again on 28 December. However, the proposal again failed to find favor.21
Tuesday 1st November 1785
A Mr. Sacket from Tygers Valley on the Monongahela, and another person came here before Dinner and shewed me some propositions they had to make to Congress for a large territory of Country West of the Ohio, which I discouraged them from offering, as I was sure they never would be acceded to by that body.
[full text The Diaries of George Washington 1 November 1785]
In May 1789 Nathaniel unsuccessfully solicited George Washington for a position in the new federal government.22
A Continental Army hut, reassembled at the New Windsor Cantonment Historic Site, Orange County, New York, is said to have been bought by Nathaniel Sackett at an auction ordered by General Washington to help pay the army's debts. The hut was used for nearly 150 years at nearby Mountainville, where it formed part of a larger home.23
148. Hon. Nathaniel Sackett, 1737–1805, of Fishkill, Dutchess County, N. Y., son of (32) Rev. Samuel and Hannah Hazard Sackett, was married, Jan. 3, 1759, to Mary Rogers, daughter of Ananias Rogers and his wife Prudence Carle. Nathaniel Sackett developed at an early age an aptitude of trade, and declared his determination to become a merchant. His decision in that respect evidently met the approval of his father, who, in his efforts to give the lad a practical education along lines bearing on the life work he had chosen, was greatly aided by his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Hazard, then a successful merchant of New York City. There now lies before the writer an original letter, yellowed by over a century and a half of time, which reads as follows:
Inclosed you have Bill of Parcels of sundry goods which I charge to your account, amounting to £12, 5s, 9d, which you had best to sell cheap and as soon as you can for cash. I also send you a Parcel of Books to sell, which I had come from England, which is charged at the cost of them, sterling, and the rule we go by in such things is that which costs 1s, sterling to sell for 2s 6d, New York money. But I would have you sell them off quick if possible, if you get only as much money as they cost sterling. I also send you a book for you to learn to write by, and hope you will take pains to improve in it.
The part taken by Nathaniel Sackett in the long and desperate struggle of the colonies for independence shows him to have been a purely unselfish patriot and should not be forgotten by his descendants. He was in New York City on business in the latter part of the memorable year 1775, when its patriotic citizens were electrified by startling news of the battle of Lexington. Returning in haste to Fishkill, he called together several prominent citizens in whose patriotism and judgment he relied, and they together prepared and issued the following call:
Whereas, alarming accounts have been received of the massacre in Boston, and a resolution taken to Parliament declaring the whole continent rebels, a number of inhabitants of this Precinct, having this day assembled at the house of John and Hendrick Wyekoff, taking the alarming situation of this continent into consideration, agreeable to the printed handbills sent up from the county of New York, requesting to fall on such measures as may be thought most necessary by the majority of the freeholders and inhabitants for their future safety and preservation. And as it has become absolutely necessary for the future preservation of our families in this Precinct, that a firm union may subsist between us and the other precincts, it is sincerely hoped that all former prejudices and party disputes be entirely laid aside and all ranks and denominations appear and their names be taken at this crisis.
It is therefore requested that none on any account or excuse whatever will keep back, but appear at the house of Messrs. John and Hendirck Wyekoff on Friday, the 5th instant, at ten o'clock in the forenoon, there to determine on such matters as are necessary to the present occasion.
The orders of this general meeting, held at this place to consult on most interesting and important matters, are as follows:
1. That a chairman be chosen.
2. That a clerk be chosen to enter all matters concluded upon.
3. That no person speak only in his turn.
4. That no person call any other person in private.
5. That all matter be debated with candor, without constraint, and with the greatest freedom.
6. That all persons shall be heard, and proper weight given to their reasons, without any distinction to either rank, quality, or fortune.
7. That after every matter is properly debated, and the question being put, every person present is to answer only yes or no, as his judgment may direct, without giving reasons.
8. That no business, diversions, stories, histories, or any other matter or thing that may divert or delay the business of the day, be mentioned or encouraged until the whole business is gone through and completed.
9. That every question put shall be carried for or against by a majority of the voices of the people present.
1. Choose a committee of thirty, to be a Committee of Observation.
2. Their power to be fixed.
3. Some of that number to wait on Co., Brinkerhoff, at Paughkeepsie, they to make a report on their return to the other members of the committee to establish their sense.
4. To choose one deputy to the New York Provisional Congress.
5. The affairs of the negroes to be considered.
6. What to be done with them in case of a battle.
7. What precautions should be taken now.
8. Enter into some resolution to be published.
The meeting held at Fishkill, May 5, 1775, resulted in a permanent organization, since known to history as the Fishkill (or Rombout Precinct) Committee of Safety: and from the day of its inception to the end of the long but finally triumphant struggle for national independence, the course pursued by Nathaniel Sackett was that of a fearless patriot who unhesitatingly risked his all for the sacred cause he had espoused and was ever ready and willing to undertake any duty, no matter how laborious or hazardous, in response to his country's call. Elected a delegate to the First New York Provisional Congress, we find him present at its initial gathering and never absent from a recorded roll call; and scanning the records we learn of his activity in preparations being made for the inevitable conflict. On the 21st of September, 1776, by act of Provisional Congress, he was appointed, together with William Duer, John Jay and several others, a committee for detecting and defeating conspiracies against the liberties of America. On this committee almost unlimited powers were conferred, including the raising and arming of troops at the State's expense, and the arbitrary arrest, examination and imprisonment of any and all persons suspected of disloyality [sic].
For several months after the creation of this committee its arduous duties were shared to some extent by all of its members, but gradually its labors and responsibilities were delegated to Nathaniel Sackett, who by authority of the governing powers of the State exercised them with discretion and success until the close of the war.
To attempt to designate the position of greatest responsibility or to name the act of most marked importance, held or performed by Nathaniel Sackett, of Fishkill, N. Y., during the Revolutionary War, is to undertake a difficult task. For a portion of the period mentioned he would seem to have been the active quartermaster of commissary of a considerable portion of the patriot army, operating on the banks of the Hudson River; at another the recognized chief of Washington's secret service corps; to-day attending a session of the Provisional Congress, and to-morrow present at a session of the General Committee of Safety. At one time consulting with his associates of the committee for detecting and defeating conspiracies, ant another issuing orders to armed bodies of troops; and again consulting with the Commander in Chief, or hastening off on some specially hazardous duty needing his personal direction. Space will not admit of following his eventful career from the beginning to the end of his patriotic struggle for the independence of his country.
A few extracts from official colonial records and the copies of a few original documents given in chronological order, and covering a comparatively short period of time, will have to suffice:
Nathaniel Sackett, Dutchess Co., 6,000 lbs of lead.
From Journal of Committee for Defeating Conspiracies, etc.
November 19, 1776—Committee for Defeating Conspiracies, meet at Conners' Tavern, Fishkill.
Present—William Duer, Chairman, John Jay, Esq., Nathaniel Sackett, Esq., Zepheniah Platt, Esq.
November 25, 1776—Committee meet at Conners' Tavern, Fishkill.
Present—William Duer, Chairman, John Jay Esq., Nathaniel Sackett, Esq., Zepheniah Platt, Esq.
December 30, 1776—Committee meet at Fishkill.
Resolved, that Mr. Sackett, taking with him Captain Van Gasbeck's company, do forthwith endeavor to apprehend the persons mentioned in John Hain's last examination
By order committee
John Jay, Chairman.
January 3, 1777—Committee meet at Fishkill.
In Council—Resolved, that Nathaniel Sackett, Esq., have power to employ such detachments if militia of Dutchess County as are not in active service, as he may deem expedient for the execution of the business committed to his charge, and all officers of the said militia are requested to comply with his requisition and obey his orders accordingly.
John Jay, Chairman
January 6, 1777—Committee meet at Fishkill.
Present—John Jay, Chairman; Zepheniah Platt, Esq., Nathaniel Sackett, Esq., Egbert Benson, Esq., General Morris.
January 7, 1777—At a meeting of Deputies from Dutchess County.
Resolved, that the deputies from this county be divided into two classes. That the honorable Robert Livingston, Esq., Conelius Humphrey, John Schenck, and Nathaniel Sackett, Esquires, be one class, and Zepheniah Platt, Gilbert Livingston, Henry Schenck, James Livingston, and Jonathan Landon, Esquires, be the other class to attend convention alternately.
I am your humble servant,
Fishkill, January 7, 1777.
To Capt. Goosbeck. From Nathaniel Sackett, member of committee.
Ordered, that Nathaniel Sackett, Esq., deliver to Col. Lasher, as commissary appointed by the convention of this State to take charge of the military stores which were in his custody, and take a receipt for the same. That Mr. Sackett exhibit and deliver all his accounts and vouchers relative to said stores to the Auditor General to be audited, that they may be filed in the Treasurer's office.
Sir:—The advantage of obtaining the earliest and best intelligence of the designs of the enemy, the good character given you by Conl. Duer, added to your capacity for an undertaking of this kind, have induced me to entrust the management of this business to your care till further orders on this head.
For your care and trouble in this business, I agree, on behalf of the public, to allow you fifty dollars per calendar month, and herewith give you a warrant on the Paymaster Genl. for the sum of five hundred dollars to pay those whom you may find necessary to employ in the transaction of this business, an account of the disbursement of which you are to send to me.
Given under my hand at Morristown this 4th day of February, 1777.
General Scott (in behalf of Mr. Sackett) informed the committee that Mr. Sackett in employed by his excellency, General Washington, to execute some public business, for defraying the expense whereof Mr. Sackett introduced an order from his excellency General Washington of Paymaster General of the Army of the United States of America, which is in the words following to wit:
500 dollars—Pay to Nathaniel Sackett five hundred dollars to be accounted for with me, and this shall be your sufficient warrant.
Given under my hand and seal at Morristown, this fourth day of February, 1777.
By his Excellency's Command
General Scott further informed the committee that the Paymaster General being absent when Mr. Sackett left headquarters, payment on the said order could not be procured and that this business to which Mr. Sackett is appointed as aforesaid is of a very urgent nature, and therefore moved that the money be advanced Mr. Sackett on the credit of said order out of the Treasury.
Ordered, that the Treasurer of this State advance to Nathaniel Sackett, Esq., on the credit and account of his Excellency, General Washington's order for five hundred dollars on the Paymaster General of the Army of the United States of America, in favor of Mr. Sackett, dated the 4th day of February, 1777.
With these facts before us the following document, which with several of the foregoing I copy verbatim from the original, is more readily understood:
Dear Sir:—You will please order a detachment of 150 men, with ten days' provision, under command of Colonel Butler, on particular duty. I wish you to order Major Hull, with him.
N. B.—The detachment will move to-morrow morning early.
interim believe me yours.
Anthony Wayne, B. G.
To Nathaniel Sackett.
After the close of the war he served one term in the State Legislature and then retired from public life; and with his fortune greatly reduced by reason of service in the cause of independence, he returned to his store and his farm. He died at the home of one of his sons near Sackett's Lake in Sullivan County, N. Y. No monument marks his last resting place, and even the locality of his burial is unknown.
462. Samuel Sackett, b. Aug. 12, 1762, d. Sept. 9, 1841; m. 1, Polly Halstead.
463. Nathaniel Sackett, b. Oct. 21, 1769; m. Elizabeth Ter Boss.
464. Hannah Sackett, b. Oct. 2, 1771, d. Dec. 19, 1832; m. Joshua Arkills.
465. Elizabeth Sackett, b. Nov. 2, 1778, d. Feb. 3, 1862; m. Eleazer Crosby.
Children of Nathaniel Sackett and Mary Rogers
Notes & Citations
- Charles Weygant, The Sacketts of America, "148. Nathaniel Sackett, b. Apr. 10, 1737, d. July 28, 1805; m. Mary Rogers."
- New York State, Names of persons for whom marriage licenses were issued by the secretary of the province of New York, previous to 1784., Albany, Weed, Parsons & Co (1860), digital image, (https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009586797), "1759, Jan. 3. Sackett, Nathaniel, and Mary Rogers, II, 145."
- "New York, Wills and Probate Records, 1659–1999" (Ancestry image).
- 1790 United States census
Nathaniel Sacket. Fishkill, Dutchess, NY. 3 white males (16+) and 3 white females.
- 1800 United States census
"Nathaniel Sacket, Fishkill, Dutchess County, New York State."
- Charles Weygant, The Sacketts of America.
- Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov).
- Website National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, "Sackett, Nathaniel
Service: New York
Rank: Patriotic Service
Birth: 4-10-1737, Cornwall, New York
Death: 7-28-1805, Sullivan Co, New York
Service Description: 1) Mem of Prov Cong; Mem of Assembly; 2) Mem of Various Committees
Residence: Fishkill, Dutchess Co, New York
Spouse: Mary Rogers."
- Glenn P Hastedt and Steven W Guerrier, eds, Spies, Wiretaps, and Secret Operations: An Encyclopedia of American Espionage (ABC-CLIO, 2011).
- Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), series 4, general correspondence, image 11.
- Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), series 3g, Varick transcripts, letterbook 2, image 266.
- Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), George Washington's Accounts of Expenses While Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army 1775-1783. With Annotations by John C. Fitzpatrick.
- Website University of Virginia, George Washington Papers (http://gwpapers.virginia.edu).
- Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), series 3g, Varick transcripts, letterbook 1, image 409.
- Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.
- Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), series 4, general correspondence, image 466.
- Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), series 3g, Varick transcripts, letterbook 2, image 29.
- Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), series 4, general correspondence, image 739.
- Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), series 3g, Varick transcripts, letterbook 6, image 154.
- Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.
- Website Library of Congress, George Washington Papers (http://www.loc.gov), The Diaries of George Washington. Vol. IV. 1784-June 1786. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978.
- Website University of Virginia, George Washington Papers (http://gwpapers.virginia.edu), editor's note to letter William Duer to George Washington, 28 January 1777, citing a letter Sackett to GW, 23 May 1789.
- Website HMdb.org Historical Marker Database (http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=8770).
|Appears in||Sackett snippets|
Sacketts in the Military
|Sackett line||4th great-grandson of Thomas Sackett the elder of St Peter in Thanet|
|Charts||Line 3a (American)|
|Last Edited||31 Jul 2022|